News from the
New York State Assembly
Veterans’ Affairs
Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Darryl C. Towns, Chair • December 2005

Assemblyman Towns


Dear Friend,

In late January 2005, I had the honor of being named by Speaker Sheldon Silver the third chairman of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. I have had a long-standing interest in the issues before this committee; I served in the United States Air Force in the 1980’s as a supply clerk and am personally familiar with some of the issues veterans confront.

The Committee had a very successful year in 2005. Nine bills passed both Houses of the Legislature and were signed by the Governor.

In the coming months, the Committee will be developing legislative ideas for the 2006 Legislative Session. We are hoping to have several round tables and hearings concerning the reentry into New York life of returning veterans.

Darryl C. Towns
Chair, Assembly Veterans’
Affairs Committee
Legislative Highlights
Patriot Plans I, II and III

The current deployment of members of the United States Armed Forces and their reserve components have placed a strain on both military personnel and their families. In an effort to help those affected by these unprecedented circumstances, the Legislature has passed and the Governor signed into law a package of bills known as Patriot Plans I, II and III.

Patriot Plan I - Established a family liaison officer at the Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA); required at least one library in every county to designate a computer for the use of family members called to active duty; directed DMNA to negotiate bulk telephone service rates for persons in military service; provided for facilities in armories for teleconferencing between active duty personnel and their families; allowed students to remain in the same school district if a parent relocated due to being called to active duty; helped veterans transfer their military training and experience to civilian jobs; extended the certificate period for emergency medical technicians who have been ordered to active duty, and established a New York State burial allowance program to help defray the cost of burial of a resident who died in combat. Chapter 106 of the Laws of 2003.

Patriot Plan II - In 2004, the Legislature built upon the success of Patriot Plan I with Patriot Plan II. This law made the protections offered to military members and their families less complicated and easier to enforce when dealing with issues such as mortgage, foreclosures, evictions, canceling insurance policies, and suspending auto leases. The measure also provided tuition benefits for veterans of the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan wars. Chapter 418 of the Laws of 2004.

Patriot Plan III - In this past Legislative session, we passed Patriot Plan III. The plan’s enhancements include ensuring that survivors of eligible public employees who die while on active duty in the Armed Forces receive the same death benefits and health insurance as survivors of all others who die while working as public employees, and reimbursing premium payments sufficient to assume the costs for $250,000 worth of Service Member’s General Life Insurance Program (SGLI) for members of the organized militia during periods of active service. It also creates new "War on Terror" license plates that shall be issued upon request to veterans who served in the Persian Gulf or Afghanistan conflicts. Chapter 105 of the Laws of 2005. A chapter amendment also passed to raise the maximum cap on SGLI to $400,000 as was done on the federal level under Public Law 109-13. Chapter 681 of the Laws of 2005.

The veteran’s DD214 form or military discharge should be kept in a safe, convenient location accessible to the veteran and next of kin or designated representative. The veteran’s preference regarding burial in a national cemetery and use of a headstone provided by the VA should be documented and kept with this information.
Special Military Make-Up Exam

This year several other bills were included in the package known as Patriot Plan III. One measure allows for a special military make-up examination for a member of the militia or reservist who, due to military service, misses the application deadline for a scheduled competitive examination. It also allows a member of the organized militia or reservist who missed the application deadline due to military service but who has returned from such duty before the date of the scheduled exam to be able to take such exam. Chapter 425 of the Laws of 2005

Real Property Tax Exemption

The Legislature created relatively high levels of real property tax exemptions for veterans in 1997. Since that legislation the value of real property has risen dramatically in certain areas of the state. As a result, veterans in several municipalities have strongly voiced their dissatisfaction with the administration of the veterans exemption because its value has been diminished to such a level that it no longer provides meaningful compensation. In 2005, the Legislature passed a bill to restore the original intent of the exemption, which was to provide a viable means by which to help war-time veterans maintain home ownership.

The first part of the bill creates three new categories of higher exemptions available to municipalities: $30,000, $20,000, and $100,000; $33,000, $22,000, and $110,000; and $36,000, $24,000 and $120,000. The second part creates, for real property purposes only, the category of "high-appreciation municipality," defined as (A) a special assessing unit that is a city; (B) a county for which the state board has established a sales price differential factor for purposes of the STAR exemption authorized by section four hundred twenty-five of the Real Property Tax Law in three consecutive years, and (C) a city, town, or village that is wholly or partly located within such a county. The municipal entities under this section may elect to increase the maximum exemptions to $39,000, $26,000, and $130,000; $42,000, $28,000, and $140,000; $45,000, $30,000, and $150,000; $48,000, $32,000, and $160,000; $51,000, $34,000, and $170,000, or $54,000, $36,000, and $180,000. The third part of bill amends Section 922 to have tax bills show full value exemption amounts. Chapter 256 of the Laws of 2005

Benefits are not automatic. Veterans must apply. Contact your nearest veterans’ service provider.

In an effort to better help the returning veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee will be holding a series of hearings and roundtables on issues that affect this vital population. We will be exploring issues around the transitioning of veterans returning from a combat zone to civilian life and what, if anything the State can to assist this process. The discussions will address the concerns of full-time active duty, National Guard personnel, and reservists.

Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns
NYS Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee
Room 841 LOB Albany, NY 12248